HOBART, Australia - INTERPOL’s key role in combating illegal fishing activities worldwide has been recognized by the global fisheries community.
At its annual meeting in Australia, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) strongly supported a number of reports highlighting the significant role played by INTERPOL in ongoing global efforts to identify, locate, arrest and prosecute the top offenders involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and related fisheries crimes.
The reports, drafted by fisheries organizations and CCAMLR member countries, reviewed the steps taken to reduce illegal toothfish fishing in the Southern Ocean during the past fishing season which led to the prosecution of crew members from the illegal fishing vessel ‘Thunder’ and the launch of multiple investigations into the related criminal network.
With INTERPOL’s support, some 15 countries worldwide initiated investigations and conducted operations into the illegal activities of the Thunder, other vessels suspected to be part of the same illegal fishing fleet, and the operating network behind it. After the vessel sank off the coast of West Africa earlier this year, a court in Sao Tomé and Principe found the captain, chief engineer and second engineer of the Thunder guilty of various illegal fishing charges.
According to the report, INTERPOL’s involvement via its Project Scale against fisheries crime was significant to these successes.
Through the issuing of Purple Notices for the Thunder and other suspect vessels, assisting national law enforcement authorities with evidence collection and analysis, and facilitating information exchange among the many countries involved, INTERPOL encouraged cooperation between countries and organizations which is ‘essential to eliminate other IUU vessels from the Southern Ocean’.
“CCAMLR applauds INTERPOL’S recent actions in support of the global fight to combat IUU fishing. The CCAMLR Secretariat and its members will continue cooperating with INTERPOL and others with a mutual interest in eliminating activity that undermines sustainable fisheries management and conservation,” said Dmitry Gonchar, Chair of CCAMLR.
CCAMLR is an international commission comprising 24 member countries worldwide, plus the European Union. It oversees the management and conservation of fisheries and other marines resources in the Antarctic waters.
The CCAMLR reports follow the ‘Our Ocean’ conference held in Chile in early October, where US Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the links between illegal fishing and other crimes including human trafficking and drug smuggling, and the need for stronger enforcement action.
Fisheries crime will be high on the agenda of the 2nd INTERPOL Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference in Singapore from 16-18 November, where executive leaders from environmental security and law enforcement worldwide will gather to discuss the most pressing challenges to environmental security and develop a joint action plan for the coming years.